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Full text of "My Country And My People"

102           MY    COUNTRY    AND    MY    PEOPLE

life of the senses and we look over the visible world to the
Great Beyond.

These moments come to the Chinese as to the Europeans,
but the reactions are decidedly different. It has seemed to me,
formerly a Christian and now a pagan, that though religion
gives peace by having a ready-made answer to all these prob-
lems, it decidedly detracts from the sense of the unfathomable
mystery and the poignant sadness of this life, which we call
poetry. Christian optimism kills all poetry. A pagan, who has
not these ready-made answers to his problems and whose
sense of mystery is for ever unquenched and whose craving for
security is for ever unanswered and unanswerable, is driven
inevitably to a kind of pantheistic poetry. Actually, poetry
has taken over the function of religion as an inspiration and a
living emotion in the Chinese scheme of life, as we shall see in
the discussion on Chinese poetry. To the West, unused to this
type of sheer pantheistic abandon to nature, religion seems the
natural escape. But to the pagan, this religion seems to be
based on the fear that there is not enough poetry and imagina-
tion in this present life to satisfy the human being emotionally,
the fear that there is not enough power and beauty in the beech
forests of Denmark or the cool sands of the Mediterranean
shore to comfort the wounded human soul, and the super-
natural is then found necessary.

But Confucian common sense, which dismisses super-
naturalism as the realm of the unknowable and expends
extremely little time over it, is equally emphatic in the assertion
of the superiority of the human mind over nature and in the
denial of nature's way of life, or naturalism, as the human way,
an attitude clearest in Mencius. The Confucian conception of
man's place in nature is that "Heaven, earth and man" are
regarded as "the three geniuses of the universe." This is a
distinction somewhat corresponding to the Babbittian three-
fold distinction of supernaturalism, humanism and naturalism.
Heaven is seen as consisting of the clouds, the stars, and all
those unknowable forces which Western legal phraseology
sums up as "acts of God," while the earth is seen as consisting
of mountains and rivers and all those forces ascribed in Greek
mythology to Demeter, and man occupies an all-important